There are things you are learning day by day about yourselves and the world around you and your fellow travelers in it. I’m honored to walk alongside you, but I rarely have opportunity to give voice to what I see while doing so. A few words for the road…
You are excited. I love how you you get worked up because you were successful in pulling an event or a project together that meant a lot to you. When you are jumping up and down in excitement, I am jumping up and down with you. I will give you all the hugs and high fives you ask for because joy in accomplishments is a good good thing to share. Strive to always be excited when you accomplish something, whether you are in college or at home or in your own office one day. Even the little things deserve celebration.
You are brilliant. You tell me about your ideas for running companies and working in higher education (which always thrills me) and being change-agents in your home countries and I am in awe of how you plan to shine your lights on the world. You are still dreamers in this stage and we are all the better for it. Dream and dream some more. Be ready to act when it is time.
You are vulnerable. You sit in my office and fiddle with your backpacks and lay your lives bare to my waiting ears. Sometimes the conversations we have are hard. Sometimes there are tears and sometimes laughter. Life is a precious, holy mix of both. I hope you leave feeling less burdened, a little lighter, and ready to face your days.
You are honest. You haven’t learned the myriad of ways to filter/manipulate/hold back just yet, so I get to hear it all: your tawdry jokes, your things you’ve never told anyone, your raw feelings, your anger, your prejudices, your knee-jerk responses. I love your honesty and I love that you feel comfortable enough to tell it.
You are silly. I’ve watched you fight dirty over cookies and step on cupcakes and forget your wallets and get stark raving mad at wi-fi speeds and burn popcorn to a crisp and use big words incorrectly and break rules you don’t like and stay up until unholy hours and end relationships on a whim. All with the same wild abandon. College is a great time to be silly.
You are kind. You bring me gifts and stories from your countries, you heap high praise on your friends, you show up and do what is asked of you on short notice, you look out for one another, you bear one another’s financial woes, and you dwell in the diversity of your college community with such grace that you are teaching us all how to better acknowledge the dignity and respect and worth of all humans. You are determined especially to that end.
You are uncomfortable. Even those of you oozing confidence have these moments where you forget the script and stumble over your words and get flustered. Each and every time, I want to tell you it will be okay. Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart.” Do just that. You’re still growing. You’ll fit your skin eventually.
You render hurt the same way you render kindness: almost recklessly. For better or for worse, every action has a reaction. Watch your words. Watch your actions. Be mindful of the advice you receive and dig deep before you take it. You are all capable of great and wonderful things, but you get to decide if you will do them/be them/live them or not. We are all travelers on this journey. Live yours well.
You are loved. You don’t know how much my heart explodes when you walk into my office simply for a hug. You don’t know how often I have cried and prayed over all of you in the years I have been at this work. You don’t know the hours I have spent in independent research trying to figure out how best to handle your lives and give you resources to succeed. You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to quit, only to be reminded the next day through your actions why I do what I do and why I have let it steal my heart so thoroughly.
You have made me grateful. Grateful to pour into your lives. Grateful for the challenge of being intentional and present with you. Grateful to learn from you. Grateful to encourage and empower you to be yourselves.Grateful to bear witness to the way you fall and rise up. You have made me grateful, students.